IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this book chapter

The Economics of Human Relationships

Listed author(s):
  • Sacco, Pier Luigi
  • Vanin, Paolo
  • Zamagni, Stefano

Behind my reciprocation of a friend's gift may lie both instrumental reasons (I expect further future gifts) and `communicative' reasons (I want to establish or confirm a friendship per se). In a theory of rational individual action, such `communicative' reasons can be incorporated as an argument of an agent's objective function. This chapter starts by reviewing a recent literature that takes this direction and introduces `relational' concerns through the concept of `socially provided goods'. From a `relational' perspective, however, individual intentions are not all that matters: a relation is characterized by the two (or more) persons linked and by the kind of link they have. This perspective, which in our view should complement the more traditional, individualistic one, is particularly suited to embed individual motivations in their social context and to study their co-evolution. In particular, we focus on the conditions under which reciprocity and altruism may survive and even spread over as social norms. Drawing from the literature on the dynamics of social norms, we argue that the combination of individual incentives and the forces of social selection may lead to a contraposition between a society's material success and its well-being, i.e., between its `vitality' and its `satisfaction'. Finally, we consider that the recent literature on the economic analysis of human relationships invites to a new reading of the `classics' of economics and of moral and political philosophy. Both the new and the old literature point at the need to broaden the scope of economic modeling, to lay down the building blocks of a new, up-to-date approach to political economy that is equipped to tackle the challenges posed by advanced industrial societies in their social, cultural and economic selection dimensions.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

in new window

This chapter was published in:
  • S. Kolm & Jean Mercier Ythier (ed.), 2006. "Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1, 00.
  • This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism with number 1-09.
    Handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:1-09
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:1-09. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.